You’ve probably settled into a comfortable tack cleaning routine over the years, but just in case you’d like a refresher, here are a few tips! Freedman’s Harness has a great video on their website that includes most of this information!
1. It’s all about the ph!
As it turns out, the fatty acids in leather soap mix well with the salt in our horse’s sweat to balance the ph in our saddle’s leather, which is crucial in preventing it from hardening and losing strength. Therefore, it is important to use products specifically made for leather and even the type of leather our saddle is made of. Consult your saddler for their recommendations. I like to use Fiebings cake saddle soap to create a dry lather with a slightly damp sponge.
2. Bottom’s up!
Sweat can soak all the way through our saddle pads so we must not neglect the underside of our saddles – they aren’t called sweat flaps for nothing! By laying our saddle upside down on a padded surface so the flaps fall open, we can easily reach the panels, billets, the underside of the flaps and get deep in the gullet.
3. Creases and crannies -
After cleaning the entire underside, dry the saddle soap off with a clean towel before flipping it over to work on the top side. Be sure to get in all the little crevices and along the edges. Use a soft toothbrush for hard-to-reach areas, like around the D rings, stirrup bars and seams. Slide the edge of your cloth into the seams to get every bit of saddle soap off.
4. Let it soak...
Give your saddle time to dry thoroughly before conditioning it, then rub conditioner into every part of your saddle that you just cleaned. Use more or less conditioner, depending on how soft you’d like the leather to be. It’s better to go easy on the billets and seats so the leather won’t stretch out of shape. I’ve always used Passier Lederbalsam Leather Balm because I LOVE the smell! Apply it evenly and give your saddle a few hours, or overnight, to soak it all in.
5. Now for the magic!
This next step gives our saddles that show sheen we all admire! It’s time to use a little elbow grease - work the conditioner into your saddle with the palm of your hands. The friction from our hands works the conditioner deep into the leather so it doesn’t just sit on top. Like rubbing lotion on our arms, when we use our hands, we can feel where the conditioner needs to be rubbed in a little more and where it’s been fully absorbed. Let it sit a few more minutes before buffing it with a soft cloth, getting into all the creases and seams again. Can you see the sheen?!
6. Safety check
As we clean and condition our saddles, it’s a great time to keep an eye out for wear and tear that needs to be addressed, paying special attention to the billets – we all know what would happen if our girth gave way!
7. Daily dose of clean
You’ll have to be the judge of how often to deep clean your saddle. At the very least, wipe it off with a damp cloth and dry it after every ride because dust, sweat and water are its biggest enemies! You’ll also want to protect your saddle with Tether Shield’s stirrup covers and Panel Guard!
Ride safe and enjoy your horse!!
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